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Cynthia Bond Perry


For the first time, celebrated choreographer Alonzo King brings his ballet company to his home state

LINES Ballet
LINES Ballet

Photograph by RJ Muna

“When we see great works of art, we want to see transcendence,” says Georgia-born choreographer Alonzo King. With his internationally acclaimed San Francisco–based company, LINES Ballet, King has drawn inspiration from global cultural traditions, making classical ballet more pliant, expressive, and relevant worldwide. This month, for the first time in its 34-year history, LINES Ballet performs in Atlanta at the Ferst Center for the Arts. We recently spoke with King, known as one of the most uniquely beautiful voices in dance today:

What does it mean to be returning home?
It’s monumental. My family were pillars in the civil rights movement [King’s father, Slater King, was president of the Albany Movement, which worked to end segregation in Albany, Georgia] and the community that existed at that time . . . These were people who were willing to die for what they believed in. To be around that is inspiring.

Dance critic and historian Jennifer Homans wrote that your work is “redirecting ballet away from its centuries-old European orientation.” Do you agree?
I think that it’s returning ballet to its original symbols and meanings. When people see what we call ballet, which I prefer to call Western classical dance, they think, Oh, someone thought of a pirouette, and they made a pirouette. It’s nonsense. Everything that we talk about has already been invented. So what is a pirouette? It is a whirlpool. It is an eddy. It is the earth circling the sun.

Alonzo King
Alonzo King

Photograph by RJ Muna

You’re known for helping dancers develop as artists. Why is artistry key to your approach as a choreographer?
I’m not teaching people to get jobs, I’m teaching them to find themselves. The dancers that I work with are strong-willed individuals who have an idea about what they want to bring. What we are really training is the heart and the mind. The body has its place, but you can get tons of bodies to get up, down, get the leg up, turn, and jump.

As you mentioned, your family was prominent in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. What role does activism play in your work?
The natural state of the heart is to love. Art can remind you of that. We can fight, and we can scream, and that has its purpose. But nothing is more profound than truth and beauty. That’s the aim of the artist—to speak soul to soul. That alone is radical. I mean, who do you know who’s loving their enemy? It’s radical.

This article originally appeared in our January 2017 issue.

Atlanta Ballet begins a new act under artistic director Gennadi Nedvigin

Atlanta Ballet Gennadi Nedvigin
Gennadi Nedvigin

Photograph by Todd Burandt

For a ballet company that has recently reshaped its profile around cutting-edge contemporary works, it’s surprising—and refreshing—to see dancers in the studio rehearsing the gypsy-flavored styling and symmetrical lines of Paquita, a 19th-century classic. For Gennadi Nedvigin, in his first season as Atlanta Ballet’s artistic director, incorporating more classicism is part of a larger plan. In rehearsals the Russian-born dancer demonstrates steps with an unassuming elegance, a reflection of his training at the tradition-steeped Bolshoi Ballet Academy and a 19-year career at the top levels of the San Francisco Ballet. There he danced an extraordinary breadth of styles, from early classics to modern masterworks to newly created pieces from today’s top choreographers.

Nedvigin’s access to those choreographers, along with his first-class training and experience, made him the Board of Trustees’ top choice to lead the company when longtime artistic director John McFall announced his retirement last season, says chairman of the board Allen Nelson. As the Atlanta Ballet’s first new artistic director in two decades, Nedvigin enters at a pivotal point in the organization’s 87-year history. Infrastructure is strong. Dancers show remarkable versatility. The company culture, based on individual creativity and collaboration, gives its performers a unique radiance onstage. Now it’s Nedvigin’s task to take the company to new heights.

His vision requires an exacting new approach to training, so dancers can further extend their artistry. He is implementing the Vaganova method, a technique and training system created in Russia and adopted by ballet companies worldwide, which emphasizes meticulous attention to detail, athleticism, and emotional expressiveness. Building the dancers’ technique will lay the groundwork for more first-class repertory, says Nedvigin. In revivals like George Balanchine’s Allegro Brillante and new acquisitions such as Liam Scarlett’s Vespertine, he says audiences can look for dancing that’s “stronger, quicker, and more precise.”

More: After 22 seasons with the Atlanta Ballet, dancer John Welker will retire from performing at the end of this year. Read our exit interview with him here.

This article originally appeared in our December 2016 issue.

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